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Learning to Speak Up: Why It's Crucial to Your Success

MAIC Loren Ridinger

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn when I first started my business is letting my voice be heard – both figuratively and literally. I sometimes share this story with an audience, and it almost feels like I’m talking about someone else because I’m quite far from the concept of a shy violet these days. But when JR and I were first starting up, I barely had a voice. Maybe I’d call it a whisper. He’d take me along on presentations and I was happy to fade into the background.

Until one day, JR had other plans. He put me front and center, told me I’d be presenting that day, and stepped aside for me to speak up. I’m pretty sure there were no more than a dozen people in attendance at that meeting. But my palms were sweaty, my knees shook, and my voice was little more than a whisper.

jr-loren-ridinger-anniversary
With JR, over 20 years ago.

I don’t remember much after that because shortly after stammering, “Hi…hi, m-my name is Loren Ridinger…” I hit the floor from passing out. I was so afraid of speaking up and being seen that I was completely overcome with panic. Can you even believe that was ever me? I can’t either. But it’s one of the core experiences that shaped my success. Because as soon as I came to, JR was there with a glass of water and an encouraging pat on the back.

He made me get up, dust myself off, and do it again. And it was the best thing he could have ever done for me. Because without a voice, I’d have been nothing. Without a presence or an appreciation for my own self worth, I’d have been ignored. And if I’d never learned to speak up, I’d never have gotten anywhere near where I am today – not even a little. Because if you’re not speaking up for yourself, no one else will.

If there’s one important lesson I can share with you today, it’s this: speak up. That simple. Whether it's asking for the raise you want, talking to your boss about your career goals, or talking to a room full of people to present an idea - every opportunity that’s laid before you needs an answer or there will be no chance of success.

MAIC Loren
Addressing the crowd at MAIC 2015.

Why You Need to Speak Up:

Ready to find your own voice? Here are a few key reasons to overcome this paralyzing fear and some tips on how to get over it.

You’re hindering your progress. Simple as that. If you can’t speak up for yourself or communicate what you want, no one will know what you need. You’ll be hindering your own growth. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or looking for the next step in your career, learning to actually ask for what you need is essential to your growth.

You’ll stay in the same place. You may be comfortable where you are but trust me that you’ll never get to the next phase unless you take some risks. And sometimes that involves talking to the person above you and talking about more opportunity. Unfortunately, as women, we are afraid to speak up for what we want in our careers. And that will forever keep us stagnant.

You will never know either way. What’s the worst that can happen? You get a ‘no’ instead of a ‘yes?’ Well, at least now you know where you stand. Don’t be afraid to look for answers, ask for direction, or seek feedback. Otherwise, you’ll remain lost, frustrated, and uninformed.

Ask and you shall receive. Sometimes it really is that easy. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will – that saying couldn’t be more true. You’ll never know what’s on the other side of that door until you open it. And you’ll never know what the answer is until you ask. So ask for what you need, what you want, and what you hope for – and you might just get it!

MAWC 2016 Loren Ridinger's Opening Speech | Loren's World
Sharing my story with over 20,000 entrepreneurs.

How to Get Over It:

So how do you get over the fear of speaking up for yourself and confronting your boss/husband/friend/coworker?

First, start by writing it down. Make a targeted list of what you need to discuss. This will help make it clearer in your mind.

Second, set aside some time. Ask the individual for a time and date that works for both of you to meet or get on a call. That way, you won’t have a fear that you’re bothering that person or interrupting at a bad time.

Third, be clear and concise. Have clear goals and objectives for this call/meeting/presentation. Make sure it gets to the point – no more, no less.

And finally, practice. Practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way to get better and the only reason I am now able to speak a crowd of thousands without batting an eyelash. Expand your boundaries, practice, and the next time, it will be easier. Promise.